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Races to Watch: 36th House District

One of the competitive General Assembly races is for the open  36th House District seat in the Milford area.

Delaware Public Media’s Kelli Steele reports Democrat Don Allan and Republican Bryan Shupe are vying to fill that vacancy.


With Republican State Rep. Harvey Kenton retiring after eight years to pursue other interests, the 36th House District is up for grabs.

And the vacancy has drawn two very different contenders for the seat.

The Democrat is Don Allan Jr., a carpenter by trade.

“My Dad was a carpenter too and when I was 12, and actually my brother started younger, my brother started when he was 10, which was the same year, I’m two years older than him. We started working summers and weekends with him, kind of helping out the family business. I tried to escape but very quickly got drawn back in. So, I went to Del Tech actually when I was 18 for drafting and then learned I didn’t like sitting in front of the computer all day long so I came back to work for him in 2003," Allan said. "I’ve been there ever since. In my normal life, I’m out installing kitchen cabinets or doing interior trim work everyday, pretty much.”

The Republican candidate is Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe.

“I was the mayor for two terms in Milford, also a small business owner here for two small businesses for over eight years and I think we need a local voice in Dover. Harvey Kenton was a great local voice for us, representing us for the last eight years and I really think we need someone in Dover to carry on that tradition of a local voice that listens to people," said Shupe. "As my record as mayor shows, we really did go out to the community and had community-driven responses to our issues. As we tackle challenges like strengthening our economy, rebuilding our roads and ensuring clean water, I feel like someone with experience and someone with their ear to the ground will serve the 36th District the best way they can."

Both candidates agree strong voices representing local interests are needed in state government.

Allan says for far too long, government has been about the wealthy and corporations, and he argues right now there is no one like him representing constituents in Dover.

“I mean if you look across the country, 4% of our state legislative candidates, not the people that win, just the people that run, are from a working class background. I mean we talk about equal representation across race, across sexual orientation and we should absolutely have that as well. But she should also have it from background. Not everybody who represents us should be a business owner, an attorney or an accountant and that tends to be what they are,” said Allan.

Shupe says he would also put local interests first if voters send him to Dover.

“Strengthening our economy, rebuilding our roads and ensuring clean water but definitely stressing our economy; making sure we have high-quality jobs here. We’ve already started that in Milford by planning the Bayhealth Sussex Campus alongside Bayhealth and Nemours Pediatric Senior Care. And we want to continue to see that. We want to make sure that middle-class families have quality jobs so that they can bring home money to feed their kids and send them to college and do the things they need to do on a daily basis,” said Shupe.

Shupe also points to healthcare as an important issue in this race. He says he will continue to advocate for increased access to specialized healthcare.

“And I think Sussex County is going to a pivotal player in healthcare not only in Sussex County but in the State of Delaware. I think that Milford will become the dominant player in healthcare,” Shupe said.

Allan agrees healthcare is important, but suggests other issues need attention as well.

“I think one of the places government should be doing is investing in infrastructure. We talked about attracting business, we talked about attracting people to our areas, we’re not going to do that unless we have the roads to get to those places, unless we have broadband internet, which is a problem in Sussex County, unless we have good schools, not necessarily new schools but improved schools - making sure that we have the resources for our teachers. All that is infrastructure,” Allan said.

As the campaign enters the final stretch, both candidates are making their final pitch to voters in the 36th District for this open seat.

Allan says he’s run a truly grassroots campaign that connects with voters.


“I’m very focused on people. I’m very proud that I have not raised one dime in this election from a single corporation and I have outraised him. So, I am very proud of that; that’s where I will say my focus is. I will be focusing on working-class, middle-class people. And that’s why I’m doing this. And that’s what I plan to do when I’m elected,” said Allan.

Shupe is asking voters to look at his history of reaching out to his constituents and delivering for them.

“We actually have built our platform around what our constituents at the door have been saying; so strengthening our economy, rebuilding our roads and ensuring clean water...that’s what I heard them say. And overall, I really did hear that they want a representative who has a track record of getting things done and also a track record of going out to people, not only in an election year, but also in the off years as well and listening to them and creating community driven responses to their challenges,” said Shupe.

Registration in the district is split fairly evenly. Democrats hold a slim 53-person edge over Republicans with just over 4,000 people unaffiliated or registered with another party.


Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.